Profound Lore Records Founder Chris Bruni on His Path to Success
It somehow makes all the sense in the world that Chris Bruni, the proprietor, sole employee and prime mover behind Profound Lore, one of the most prolific labels on today's metal landscape, is also a conservatory trained pianist. "I've never played in a band but I have an understanding of music," says the soft-spoken Bruni from his home outside of Toronto, Canada. "It was a really demanding, perfectionist approach to music. It was almost hard to enjoy – there was so much pressure. My last day with my piano teacher almost felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders."
You can't help but hear both the heaviness and discipline that comes with that training spread across Profound Lore's catalog of extremities. From Agalloch's atmosphere-swathed sonic resin to the death metal experimentalism of Australia's Portal to the doom-rock of Pallbearer and Yob Profound Lore has become one of metal's most prolific and trustworthy ports of call. Ergo: they put out a lot of records and most of them rule.
"It's been about eight years now – which I can't believe," says Bruni who has released 100 records and counting since founding the label in 2004. Album number 100 is the latest from New Jersey's legendary funerialists, Evoken, which has garnered universal praise and critical kudos since its late July release. "If I was going to have something be a milestone release like that, I'm proud to say that was it," says Chris.
Like almost any independent label owner, Chris never intended Profound Lore to snowball into anything more than a glorified hobby. Early Profound Lore releases included vinyl issues of albums including Ulver's Blood Inside and Nachymystium's Instinct: Decay. Full-fledged albums from American black metallists Thralldom (whose members went onto form Unearthly Trance) and the Bay Area astrology-obsessed doomsters Asunder solidified the label's musical aesthetic: music that often pushes into the realm of "difficult" but also can be richly rewarding.
If there was a common thread that runs through the Profound Lore, what is it? "It's hard to exactly pinpoint but I would say it's rooted in dark and artistic music. Chamber music. Doom metal. Death metal. Even traditional heavy metal," states Bruni whose musical vision has imbued Profound Lore with something you can't formulate – brand loyalty. "There's a real artistry to all of these bands. The music they make is something I can relate with."
Bruni admits that there were a handful of labels whose influence helped him define Profound Lore's enigmatic identity. Their identity went beyond simply their musical output. "Of course the early years of Earache and Roadrunner were great but the labels I was really influenced by were Peaceville Records, 4AD, Avantegarde Music from Italy, Miansthropy Records. (departed founding Mayhem guitarist) Euronymous' Deathlike Silence Productions label," says Chris. "If you read the interviews with Euronymous in the early '90s about what he wanted to achieve. That uncompromising attitude that he had is definitely an inspiration. Releasing what you want not matter what it sounds like."
Watch The Atlas Moth's 'Your Calm Waters' Video
Chris, now 34, discovered metal through most of the usual channels: "I had an older cousin who would tape metal videos. When he would turn me onto bands like King Diamond, it blew my mind: 'dude, he beat up a priest in this one video!" Chris laughs. Time progressed and Bruni's musical tastes literally became a test of his own listening thresholds. "Once I was already steeped in death and black metal in the mid-90's, I wanted to check out new musical grounds like noise and power electronics. Not necessarily metal but stuff rooted in dark music. It's been a case of constantly wanting to discover new music for me."
Asked what bands he would love to work with, it's "There's a band from the U.K. called Grave Miasma. They are the superior death metal band today. Those guys are really good friends of mine." There must be a bigger, "name" band that he would love to work with? "I would love to put out a Neurosis album -That would rule," he beams. "I would love to put out a Swans record or a Deathspell Omega record. Opeth, if it was Morningrise Part II – fuck yeah!"
The fact that underground heavies including Agalloch's John Haughm or Yakuza's Bruce Lamont, who have had experiences on other labels including The End and Metal Blade, have entrusted Profound Lore with their careers isn't lost on Bruni. "If there's a musician that needs recognition, its Bruce from Yakuza," states Chris who is releasing a new Yakuza record in October. "That guy's a renaissance man in metal. I'm very thankful to these artists that have had a history before working with me. For instance, I'm very thankful to Mike from Yob who has always said to me, 'thank you for what you've done' and I'm like 'Thank you for giving me the opportunity.'
Watch Yob Perform 'Adrift in the Ocean'
In talking to Chris Bruni, you can't help but be struck by the guy's humility. Industry jargon almost never creeps into his patois (aside from joking that having a band up for a Juno award - Ken Mode - might be a decent pick-up line). The music always comes first. "You know the phrase: 'signing a band'?" he says. "I don't even feel comfortable saying that. I want to see it as a collaboration between me and a band. It's always sounded weird when you read something like 'Profound Lore signed The Atlas Moth'. I see it and it's more about being close friends with a band. I want to work with them and help their vision grow and expand to the best of my abilities."
Surprisingly, the shitty climes of today's music business haven't actually hit Profound Lore as hard as most. "The digital thing was in full-swing when my label started taking off. I never got to experience the time when CD's actually sold a lot. When labels like Relapse, Southern Lord, Century Media pushed a lot of CDs. When I came into the game I was already tucked in within the phenomenon of the digital age."
He's even hopeful about the potential of streaming services like Spotify and more significantly, Bandcamp. "Bandcamp is more personalized. You can stream music. You can buy music from it: digital, physical, vinyl and merchandise. Plus, It's great tool to have all this music at your disposal to check out."
So why does Chris Bruni do this? What makes a man start fires or unleash some of the most challenging and unsettling records in the spectrum of all things heavy?
"To keep me sane," the Canadian chuckles. "What else am I going to do by this point? A lot of people I went to high school with will still say 'Oh, you're still listening to that death metal stuff.' Well, I'm making a living from it! I guess you could call it living the dream." That's a very bad dream indeed – 100 records and counting.
Head over to www.ProfoundLoreRecords.com for more information on the label and its upcoming releases.